Boob Tube Breakdown – Justified: Everybody wants to rule the world

Justified: Season 3

“The Gunfighter”

Aired: January 17, 2012

Writer: Graham Yost

“You ready to get back into action?”

– Winona Hawkins

Justified is the story of a modern day gunslinger. Raylan Given walks around in a Stetson with an itchy trigger finger looking to bring bad guys to justice. But what has been so fascinating about the show over the past two seasons has been the evolution of Raylan from a “shoot first, ask questions later” type of lawman to a calmer, more analytical hero.

While last night’s episode saw Raylan squaring off against Fletcher “The Ice Pick” Nicks in a duel, what was so interesting about the episode was how reluctant Givens was to be involved in any of it. With Raylan on the mend from the gunshot wound he suffered at the end of last season and with a baby on the way, he seems content to sit behind a desk and wait until he’s medically cleared to go back into action. Raylan knows how much trouble he has drawing and firing his weapon, so he is perfectly willing to sit this one out and wait until he’s at 100 percent to jump back into the saddle.

Tim uses every trick he has to convince Raylan to tag along and question Wynn Duffy with him. When that gets them nowhere, it’s again Tim who tells Raylan to go interview Emmit Arnett, which puts Raylan in Nicks’ crosshairs. Even after Yvette gives up the information that leads to the sting operation, Raylan still is willing to go home and rest, letting the other members of the team handle the bust. It’s only when he arrives back at his hotel room with Winona and finds Nicks waiting for him that he’s forced into being the gunfighter we all want him to be.

And that scene with Nicks is absolutely phenomenal. We saw earlier in the episode how ruthless Nicks is in his little game (and we saw how he earned the nickname “Ice Pick”). Even though you knew Raylan was going to survive, they still managed to build a lot of tension in that moment where Nicks and Raylan are sitting across from each other as Winona slowly counts down from 10.

Raylan pulling on the tablecloth to get the gun first was a total Han Solo moment. (The original “Han shot first” Solo, that is.) Nicks has been able to win those confrontations in the past by cheating, but this time he underestimates his opponent. Raylan, either sensing that the game was rigged or knowing he was too injured to outdraw Nicks, is not above cheating himself.

While Raylan is trying and failing to stay on the sidelines, it seems everyone in Harlan is maneuvering and looking to make a power grab now that Mags is out of the picture. First we discover that Boyd Crowder and his gang have helped themselves to Mags’ weed supply. Then, when Boyd finds himself behind bars, we see Devil looking to take control of the group and to sell the weed, even though Boyd wants it burned when he finds out it essentially worthless. Ultimately though, we see Ava establish herself as Boyd’s number two, thanks to a frying pan upside Devil’s head.

Speaking of Boyd, as always he is thinking five moves ahead. When he comes in to speak with Raylan at the station, it as first seems like he loses his cool and attacks the marshal for being ungrateful. But at the end of the episode, when we see Boyd in the same prison as Dickie Bennett, it suddenly becomes clear that that was his plan all along. Rewatching his scene with Raylan a second time, it became very apparent that he was hoping to be arrested all along. When he found out no charges were lingering after his role in Mags’ undoing, he attacks Raylan as Plan B.

And while Boyd and his gang all wrestle for control, we see a new face arrive in town to shake things up within the Dixie Mafia. Neal McDonough shows up playing a as yet unnamed man in a suit, who shows up from Detroit to demand repayment on the loan they extended to Arnett. After his plan to get Arnett and Nicks arrested fails, we see just how deadly he is, thanks to the Derringer hidden up his sleeve.

Who will ultimately run Harlan now that Mags is out of the picture is yet to be seen. But we certainly have a few new contenders stepping up and battling for the throne. And once Raylan is back to 100 percent, I imagine he won’t be so content to stay on the sidelines for very long.

And another thing …

  • Lipstick on a platypus? Do people actually say that? I’ve always heard it as “lipstick on a pig.”
  • I am so excited to have Neal McDonough on this show. I think he’s one of the most underrated actors out there and he was phenomenal on one of Graham Yost’s other shows, Boomtown.
  • Wynn Duffy is absolutely terrible at pat downs. I realize that the Derringer hidden up McDonough’s character’s sleeve is well concealed, but I would have to imagine you’d be able to feel it if you patted down his arm.
  • It’s amusing that the most reckless, “play by his own rules” thing Raylan does in this episode is not read the file on Nicks, which is why he fails to identify him in the elevator.
  • I certainly hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Hot Rod Dunham, the man from Memphis who tells the Crowder gang that their weed is worthless. I feel like there’s untapped potential there.

Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at

  1. Cassandra January 18, 2012
  2. Joel Murphy January 18, 2012

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